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Monday, 5 May 2014

How to Steal a Damien Hirst


Not content with only one Damien Hirst in the Ultraloft, Design Trawler set out to acquire a slightly larger masterpiece by the enfant terrible of the contemporary art world. Here's how he did it.

The artwork in question is a limited edition butterfly design on silk released by Damien Hirst in late 2013. A combination of delicate butterfly wings with four skulls arranged in a kaleidoscope of intricate pattern. Its location? Mayfair, naturally - The flagship Alexander McQueen boutique on London's Old Bond Street. Accomplices? five in total, starting with the sales assistant...

Step one. Stroll in to the couture store one crisp December morning and point out the target. "Can I help you Sir?" said the petite weekend girl. "I'll take the Hirst, the butterfly print", "Certainly Sir, let me get that packaged up for you". A pay-off shy of ten large notes later and I'm strolling out of the boutique with the Damien Hirst tucked like a newspaper under my arm. No sirens, no alarm bells.

Step two. Finding a specialist to carefully mount the delicate silk before framing. This is the trickiest part. Several months of enquiries and nobody wants to get involved. Those that do want their share of the fortune; this is risky business. But not for one woman. A 30 year veteran of this game, known only as Kitty. She's worked the Denver Art Museum, the Henry Moore Foundation, the Emirates Palace Hotel, Palazzo Reale in Milan; you name it, Kitty's handled their most impressive works.

I arrange to meet at her London penthouse and drop off the Hirst. Down an unassuming cobblestone street, it's no accident Kitty lives a stones throw away from one of London's leading museums. Inside her assistants scurry around as I unfold the precious cargo on a vast table. She recognises it instantly and soon discussion turns to other great works that I might want to get involved with.

Her knowledge is vast; like her wall to wall bookcases filled with every conceivable fine art resource, exhibition and auction catalogue you can think of. "How about this one?" I ask. "That's Miró, the other one is Picasso, If you bring me a Picasso I can do the same for you." I think I'll stick to one at a time. Kitty tells me she'll take care of the transfer to my final two accomplices on my behalf; and that I should visit them in West London in four to six weeks time.

Stay tuned for Part II of the story, and find out if Design Trawler writes it from the inside of a prison cell!
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